Orlando, Florida – The American Automobile Association (AAA) has reported that there were an estimated 278,000 vehicle fires in the U.S. in 2006, the lowest number since statistics were first tracked in 1980, but they caused 490 deaths, 1,200 injuries and US$1.3 billion in direct property damage. The AAA and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have joined together to make the public aware of the risks and highlight steps to help prevent fires from occuring.

Among the findings, the two groups noted that only 3 per cent of highway fires were caused by collisions or overturns, but these incidents caused 57 per cent of the deaths; from 2002 to 2005, 50 per cent of highway vehicle fires and 11 per cent of deaths were caused by some form of mechanical failure or malfunction; highway vehicle fires tend to be more common during the summer months, with Fridays and Saturdays the peak days; and teenagers and young adults are at most risk of highway vehicle fire deaths.

To reduce the risk of a vehicle fire, AAA recommends that you have your vehicles inspected at least annually by a trained professional technician; watch for fluid leaks, cracked or blistered hoses, or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or has cracked insulation, and have any of these conditions inspected and repaired as soon as possible; be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust from the tailpipe; and drive according to posted speed limits and other traffic rules.

In case of a fire, AAA advises motorists to stop and, if possible, pull to the side of the road, turn off the ignition and put the vehicle in Park or set the emergency brake; keep the hood closed to avoid feeding oxygen to the fire; make sure everyone gets out of the vehicle and moves at least 100 feet (30 metres) away, being aware of other vehicles moving in the area; and to call 911 or other emergency number. Never return to the vehicle to attempt to fight the fire yourself.

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